Click on a letter to browse through the reviews on this site:
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM †
Perhaps one of the most brutal attack on the senses since the dizzying editing work in NATURAL BORN KILLERS, REQUIEM is a movie that refuses to hold any punches back with its depiction of drug abuse and those who suffer the consequences by allowing themselves to become victim to it. Director and writer Darren Aronofsky, who made his feature debut with 1998ís PI, probes into the world in which people are drowning themselves into despair and hopelessness. The film itself is like a drug trip, as it drives into hyper speed one moment as it showcases madness, confusion and self-mutilation of the mind and the senses. And moments where things cool down a bit, and we see human beings who are clinging to dreams in such a way that failure and disappointment is as inevitable as the sun rising each morning. The movie isnít asking us to watch drug addiction but to experience it. Aronofsky has some great talent under his direction, and they include Jared Leto (whose best work to date have been minor roles in such films as THE THIN RED LINE and GIRL, INTERRUPTED), Jennifer Connelly (who is of course a very well known actress who is most famous for the ultra-creepy fantasy nightmare classic, LABYRINTH), Marlon Waynes (by looking at his resume, which include SCARY MOVIE and DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, you would not expect that he is capable of emoting anything other then goofy accents. Wrong). And then there is of course legendary actress Ellen Burstyn, who of course has been in some of the greatest movies of all time, and cranked a few great performances in her lifetime. Add this one to the list, as she does something she has never done before. She is this hideously, ugly woman in the role, and Burstyn actually overcomes her shocking physical appearance (considering she is such a beautiful woman in real life), and allows us to witness her soul and her insecurities about her own identity, not just her appearance. To say this wonít go down in history, as one of her greatest performances is an understatement. Anyone who knows how to appreciate great, and forget that it is acting, will remember this performance in the years to come.
The story revolves focuses in on four people and their pursuit for happiness through destruction of themselves and of their existence. Sarah Goldfarb (Burstyn) spends her days chatting away on the sidewalk outside her Brooklyn apartment with a bunch of old hens. Her life is an abyss of loneliness, and the only thing that keeps her going is a popular game show about motivation. When she is called to make a guest appearance on the show, she is ecstatic about the invitation. But to go on television looking like she does? She doesnít want the whole world to see her as she sees herself. So decides to diet so she can fit into her red dress, which she plans to do with the help of diet pills prescribed to her from a doctor. However, she becomes hopelessly addicted to the pills, doubling her doses. She begins to have bizarre hallucinations, and one being that her own refrigerator is actually harassing her while she visualizes herself on the show, wearing her red dress and all smiles.
Her son Harry (Leto), and his girlfriend Marion (Connelly), are experiencing their own problems in life. Both are heavily addicted to dope and to say that they would do anything for a hit is an understatement. In the films moderately humorous scene, Harry steals his motherís television to a pawn shop, to which Sarah goes back and pays for it as if it where a routine (the set is even chained to the wall). Harry loves his mother (the sincerity is heard in his voice every time he says Ma), but doesnít recognize that she to is experiencing a force that has engulfed her of her mind. Harry and Marion are always thinking about schemes to get rich quick so they can continue on with their habits (they sell dope, but do more than they distribute). They even dream about opening up a clothing store one day, once they are well secured. They score heroine with friend and fellow addict Tyrone (Waynes), a guy who just wants to do good in the world but always ends up falling short. When their source for their habit falls apart, the three fall into a nightmarish hell where they would suffer horrific (and I mean horrific), degradation and humiliation in order to keep up with their habits, which is rapidly increasing everyday. When all is said and done, each of these people have descended into a world where self-destruction and sadness is the only thing in eye site that exists. Their pursuit for happiness has failed as each one has lost something they could never regain again.
Itís hard to like a movie that has absolutely no hope or no joy in it whatsoever, and the joy that is in the film is tainted joy that is destined to rot away. The final twenty minutes of the film are perhaps twenty of the most ugly and depressing minutes one will ever endure. One would think that after the struggles each of these people where forced to endure that they would be allowed peace. But that would only contradict what the movie is saying about addiction and its devastating effects it has on the mind and on the soul. What we are seeing is a harrowing ordeal of ordinary people who have forever damned themselves any chance of pure happiness. The performances are utterly amazing to watch. Leto, looking like a ghost of a human being gives a powerful performance. His love for his mother and his girlfriend are the two things that destroy him as he fills a void in both womenís lives. Jennifer Connellyís performance is perhaps the hardest to watch, as she is this beautiful woman who appears to be headstrong. But she is vulnerable to her own hell, and Connelly bares her own soul in the role and her spiral downwards is hard to watch. Her final scene, the final glimpse of her is an extremely gripping one as one knows that she has now entered a vicious and terrifying cycle of brutality.
Waynes is a revelation here, and goes to prove that everyone in Hollywood has talent if allowed to express it through the right material (if he could pull this off, just imagine what Sandler can do?). His performance is nothing short if remarkable, and gives his scenes such presence and life, and we do genuinely care about him and his life. His search for happiness has been one that has been going on for a great many years, and itís an honest but sad one because you know that he has put up a roadblock from ever obtaining it, but he still tries to find it.
Ellen Burstyn is absolutely amazing, and to think that we had seen it all from her. I donít think it would be possible to describe in full detail of just how her performance and touched me and how much I wanted her to fulfill her dreams, which where innocent at best. Watching it, you canít help that itís not fair that such a woman who has suffered for so long would wind up destroying herself. But her addiction is one that is pressured by society I think. Image is everything, and without it youíre ordinary and plain. Sheís ashamed of herself and her own identity, and believing she can find salvation in the form of a pill she subjects herself to even more loneliness and self-hatred. She never sits down and thinks about what makes her a good person, but tortures herself by reminding herself about what makes her a flawed one. Like the rest of the characters, she has sealed her fate when she hunts for her dreams by disconnecting herself from her state of mind. These people all have the solution for what is mangling their souls apart in arms reach. But each opts to take a path that will lead them to their own demise.
I think the sacrifices that that Aronofsky's asked of his actors paid off. Each had to perform some sort of grueling task (especially Burstyn and Leto), but I think that everything he has done here pays off. Some would probably claim that he uses camera tricks and snazzy editing to falsely captivate that audience. I would disagree. I think he is capturing the chaos that the world of drug addicts live in, and what we are seeing is a reflection of what is going on in their souls. Itís confusing at time, especially with split screens. But the story isnít eliminated through impressive camera tricks. Itís enhanced in my opinion.
It really is a miserable movie and one that I wouldnít recommend to those who canít endure such misery in a theatre. But this is a movie that should be seen. Itís not cowardly and itís heroic. It is simply portraying a problem by using symbolism and creative techniques. Itís showing the truth.
My Grade: A